Sunderland’s ‘Lambton Tanks’ return as guest stars at rail museum

Lambton No. 29 at work on a coal train in the 1960s.
Lambton No. 29 at work on a coal train in the 1960s.
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ICONIC locomotives from Wearside’s industrial heritage will finally make a return to the North East.

The Lambton Tanks, famed for their work on coal trains which travelled between collieries in Houghton and Sunderland, are being put on display at a special exhibition.

The machines found cult status in the late 1960s, when enthusiasts flocked to Philadelphia sheds to see their last days in operation.

Now, for the first time since the early 1970s, one of the trains is to return to County Durham, where it will be star guest at an event at Tanfield Railway, in Gateshead.

Built 110 years ago, Lambton Hetton and Joicey Collieries No.29 left County Durham bound for Yorkshire when steam was ousted from Philadelphia.

It has since been seen working in parts as distant as Kent and Staffordshire, but has never returned to County Durham.

Thanks to a partnership between the locomotives owners, the Lambton Locomotives Trust, and volunteers at Tanfield Railway, a special “return home” will take place this Saturday and Sunday.

Tanfield Railway director David Watchman said: “The Lambton railway system was unique.

“At its height, it operated more than 50 locomotives, had five engine sheds and could send more than 50,000 tonnes of coal a week to be loaded into ships on the Wear.

“What made the Lambton system even more special is that, for more than a century, it ran its own trains over the main line railway to Sunderland under a special agreement.

“The Lambton tanks were built specifically for that work and they became an icon of North East railway history.”

Lambton tank No. 29 was the first of the type built, in 1904 by the Leeds based locomotive manufacturer Kitson’s.

Other attractions this weekend include model railways and vintage vehicles, while the line’s real ale bar will be serving Wearside beers.